Elden Ring – Review

Elden Ring had been one of those games which I had um’d and ar’d over, in the build-up to release I had watched a lot of gameplay videos to see if it caught my interest, and it did. The world looked stunning from the previews that I had seen, the only issue that still played on in my mind was that it was basically a Souls game, and I knew from previous experiences that me and these types of games don’t get on. 

Still, there was something in my mind that made me want to try it out, I liked what I was seeing and people were saying that while it was still a Souls game in makeup, because of its open-world set up it was a lot more accessible to new players, plus when the review scores came out from the early copies which had been sent it seemed a no brainer to give it a try.

I will be honest here, my first impressions of the game weren’t great, so much so that I cancelled my order and had a refund from Xbox for it. Going through the tutorial dungeon was fine, but then walking out into the world and being killed over and over by the tree sentinel at the start wasn’t my idea of fun.

But, there was still something in my brain ticking away saying I should have given it another chance, was I doing something wrong? I surely couldn’t be expected to kill this big guy as soon as I walked into the world. Well, I guess if I was skilled enough to duck, dodge and dive and understood more about what I had let myself in for, maybe I could have beaten him, but I was at a loss, just like other Souls games, this doesn’t hold your hand. There’s no quest log to show if you’ve spoken to someone and they have asked something of you.

Anyway, I digress, so there was something eating away at me, had I been too harsh in requesting a refund? I decided to have a look at some videos other people had posted, how had they started the game? How did it vary to me? Had I just gone into the battle and got my backside handed to me for no reason? Well, after checking out other people’s playthroughs and reading some tips, the answer to that would be yes. So, I bought the game again and went at it, got my Astrologer, and away I went. This time, proceeding with caution, remembering what tips I had read and what I had seen from others, I was careful and more calculated with how I approached it and I am so glad that I gave this game another chance.

Have there been moments of frustration? Yes, and I don’t think that will change throughout the game, but the satisfaction you get when you’ve tried beating one of the bosses and you die about 10 times, but suddenly BAM, you get them! That is one of the things that I love about this game, the pure adrenaline rush you get when you’ve tried to beat a boss and just haven’t been able to, you go away, improve and try again, or if you’re stubborn like me, just keep trying!

I will say that the one thing that helped me massively when playing Elden Ring was just researching and looking up tips online on how to improve your character, what to do next and strategies on how to best bosses. The amount of information that is available out there to help you is immense and I found most of it extremely helpful, especially when it came to my character build. 

One thing that I thought would annoy me when I heard about it was the lack of a quest log where you can check what to do and where to go. Normally when you speak to an NPC in a game and they give you a quest, that would normally be put in a log for you to follow up on later. Not in Elden Ring, when the NPC speaks and tells you something they will normally give you either a name of a location or point you in the general direction of where you need to go and that’s it. You then need to either put a beacon marker down on the map or remember and if you forget, hope that you stumble across it in general exploring of the world. I have to admit it hasn’t really annoyed me at all not having a quest log, it allowed me to explore more of the world instead of heading to certain locations to get quests done and going more point to point, which I think from a game design perspective is brilliant. If you’re a developer and you’re making this massive open-world you’re going to want people to see it all, to experience everything that it has to offer and I think this is where quest logs can take away from the experience. If you’ve got a quest log, a lot of people playing the game may be more inclined to go from point to point and just do the quests available for them and not bother exploring, meaning there’s a very good chance that they would miss out on a lot of things in the world.

This is something that Elden Ring gets very right, I think I’ve explored so much of the world, but I don’t actually have a clue about what I’ve done, I feel like the game just lets go of my hand when I walk out those doors after the initial dungeon and says “You’re on your own now. Enjoy”

Speaking of walking out of those doors at the beginning, what an impression the game gives when you first enter it. The opening dungeon is impressive with the details, but when that world opens up before you and you see that initial opening. It’s simply glorious. The whole world and its design are amazing and to me simply breathtaking, each area brings its own identity and is beautifully designed.

One thing that I have to speak about here is the difficulty of the game. Now, everyone is familiar with how the Souls games set the bar for how challenging they are and Elden Ring is no different, however, with the open-world design If a point you’ve got to is getting too difficult and you’re struggling then you’re able to go back elsewhere and earn some runes to help you level up your character, and trust me, there is plenty you can still probably do to level up your character.

There have been moments where I have struggled in terms of the difficulty, but the ability to be able to return to other areas and explore more (because let’s be honest there’s so much to see and do that I know I haven’t even scratched the surface) and get more runes to be able to level up is a great benefit to the game.

The satisfaction that you then get when you return to someone who has pummelled you several times and you just can’t see yourself beating them, to go back after a few levels to accomplish that, there is no better feeling! As my wife will attest to watching me have my backside handed to me by several bosses, but then watch me bounce in excitement as that last hit goes in and there finished off and those beautiful words on the screen of ‘Great Enemy Felled’ show up.

The leveling up and crafting element of the game was the most difficult for me to grasp, at first I didn’t realise that the things I need to help level up my items actually had levels to them as well. So I was getting confused why I had 9 smithing stones sat in my inventory but it wouldn’t allow me to use them, it was because my items were either under or over the level of those stones. But, once I grasped that it made it easier for me, a little bit anyway.

Personally, I think the upgrade system is far too complicated for what it needs to be. However, I think if it was simplified it would make it far too easy for people to make their characters overpowered far too early in the game, which with how the game is intended in terms of difficulty would completely defeat the object of the game.

There is no doubt in my mind that this game is a masterpiece and I am glad I went back to it and gave it another go. But I can see why it’s going to be like Marmite for a lot of people. However, for someone like me who didn’t get along with the Souls game, I am surprised I have enjoyed this. Maybe it’s the ability to be able to walk away and get stronger before returning again, giving me that opportunity to progress further, something I felt I didn’t get in Souls games.

Would I recommend this game? Absolutely, but my advice would be to be patient. If you can’t get passed something, just take the time to explore the world or area you’re in. There are bound to be places you haven’t come across and it will allow you to grow and be stronger.

Leave a Reply